The geography of danger has shifted

Speech by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Japan National Press Club

  • 31 Oct. 2017 -
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  • Last updated: 02 Nov. 2017 14:27

(As delivered)

It's a great pleasure to be here in Tokyo.
One of the world's most dynamic cities.
In one of its most dynamic countries.

I first came to Japan as a young Norwegian politician, back in 1989.
To learn about Japanese society and culture.

I realised then how much Japan and Norway have in common.
Two proud, seafaring nations.
With a strong belief in free trade and open economies.

Sharing core values.
Like democracy and individual liberty.

Since then, I've had the privilege of visiting Japan several times.
But this is my first visit to East Asia as NATO's Secretary General.

And my goal in coming here is simple.
To meet with NATO's friends in the region.

To discuss the common challenges we face.
And to explore how, together, we can overcome those challenges.


NATO is a political-military Alliance, founded almost 70 years ago.
Representing half of the world's economic might.
And half of the world's military might.

Our Alliance was born out of conflict.
But our purpose is peace.

To deter, and defend against, any threat our nations may face.

In whatever shape or form.
And from whatever direction.

For centuries, security was about meeting threats on land and at sea.
And, later, from the air.

Today, we are as likely to be attacked down fibre optic cables.
Or on our mobile devices.

The line between war and peace has become blurred.
In an age of 'hybrid' war, we may not know we have been attacked until serious damage has been done.

So, defence is no longer about just looking at a map and deciding where to place armies.

It's also about countering misinformation.
Protecting infrastructure.
Making our societies resilient to attack.

The geography of danger has shifted.

More often than not, the challenges we face are global.

International terrorism.
The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

For NATO to succeed in the twenty-first century, we must continually refine the way we think and work.
And that's exactly what we are doing.

Of course, NATO's chief responsibility is the security of Allied territory.
Stretching from Iceland to Italy.
And from Anchorage to Ankara.

In a globalised world, however, we are not immune to events elsewhere.
Or militarily.
Including in the Asia-Pacific region.

Historically, events here have shaped NATO profoundly.

NATO's 12 founding members signed the treaty which created the Alliance in April 1949.
A year later, the Korean Peninsula erupted into war.

The Korean War became the trigger for a complete remodelling of the Alliance itself.
Because the events of 1950 forced Allies to face up to the fact that war in Europe was still possible.

Acknowledging that reality, they transformed the North Atlantic Treaty into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Literally putting the 'O' into NATO.
Complete with a Secretary General.
A permanent military headquarters.
And a supreme Allied commander in Europe.
A post first occupied by General Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The Pacific may literally be on the other side of the world from NATO Headquarters in Brussels.
But that doesn't mean we are not affected by what happens here.

In fact, two NATO Allies are Pacific nations.

We also have close partners in the region whose security matters to us.

And with whom we share strategic interests.
Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

Our security is bound up with your security.
That is particularly true, of course, when it comes to North Korea.

NATO remains very concerned by Pyongyang's destabilising behaviour.
Which poses a threat to regional and international peace and security.

Pyongyang's nuclear and missile tests represent a flagrant violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions.

North Korea is working to advance its nuclear and missile technologies.
This is a clear and present danger to Japan and to the Republic of Korea, our partners in the region.

It is also a threat to NATO Allies.

North Korea is developing ballistic missiles capable of hitting Allied cities both in North America and in Europe.
NATO takes that threat very seriously.

The Alliance maintains a strong deterrence posture.
We have the capabilities and we have the resolve to respond to any aggression.

Our position is clear:
North Korea must abandon its nuclear programme, once and for all.

It must suspend the development of ballistic missiles.

And it must refrain from further testing.

NATO strongly supports a peaceful, negotiated solution to the crisis on the Korean Peninsula.
To achieve this, pressure is key.

North Korea must understand that there is a price to pay for its behaviour.
And that there is a real value in reaching a peaceful solution.

We call on all nations to fully and transparently implement United Nations economic sanctions.


Pyongyang's weapons programme also represents a broader challenge to non-proliferation efforts.
To which NATO is firmly committed.

Over the years, these have made significant progress.
Countries like Belarus, Kazakhstan, Libya, South Africa and Ukraine have abandoned weapons of mass destruction.

In 2010, the United States and Russia agreed to each limit their number of strategic nuclear warheads to fewer than 1,550.
Down, in the case of the United States, from a Cold War peak of more than 30,000.

NATO Allies have reduced their collectivenuclear arsenal in Europe by more than 90%.

North Korea's reckless flouting of the non-proliferation regime risks undermining all this progress.
Turning the clock back in a way that is dangerous for us all.

This is the time for the international community to convey a clear, united and strong response.
With both global and regional powers playing a constructive role in tackling the crisis.

NATO stands in full solidarity with our partners, Japan and the Republic of Korea, with whom we are working together closely.


Stability on the Korean peninsula is not the only interest we have in common with our partners here in the Asia-Pacific region.
We share a commitment to preserving the rules-based international order.
And the conditions that enable trade and commerce to flow freely, over land and sea.

Prime Minister Abe has called NATO and Japan 'natural partners'.
And he is right.

I welcome Prime Minister Abe's initiative for Japan to make a more 'proactive contribution to peace'.
And I welcome Japan playing a more active role in achieving that peace.

Japan was NATO's very first global partner.
And we have worked together on many different issues.

In the fight against terrorism.

Which Japan has supported through itscontributions to making Afghanistan a more stable and secure country.
In securing international waterways.
Which Japan has aided by fighting piracy off the Horn of Africa.

And on cyber defence.
On which NATO is beginning to work with Japan.
Exploring how we can share information and best practice.
And train together.

I believe there is now an opportunity for NATO and Japan to take our close partnership to a new level.
On issues as diverse as maritime security, fighting terrorism and disaster response.

We want to work more closely with Japan.
Because we know we will be a better, stronger, and more effective Alliance if we do.


NATO's responsibility is the security of Allied territory.
But we stand in solidarity with the Asia-Pacific region.

We want to do more with partners here.
Because the geography of danger has shifted.
And because more diverse, complex threats, require deeper, wider cooperation.

​As an Alliance we will continue to challenge ourselves.
To bring innovative thinking to global security.
To adapt whenever and however necessary.
To remain vigilant and alert.
And to work with our friends and partners.
In the relentless search for lasting peace and security.


Q: My question is, as Secretary General, how do you manage Turkey and how can you keep NATO united and in good function? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG (Secretary General of NATO): Turkey is an important ally for NATO for several reasons. Just the geographic location of Turkey makes it an important ally because of its strategic geographic location bordering the turmoil, the violence in the south, bordering Iraq and Syria, so being key in the fight against ISIL. At the same time Turkey is also bordering Russia in the Black Sea, and all this underlines the important role of Turkey in the alliance, both coping with a more assertive Russia in the east but also handling the migrant and the refugee crisis, and the fight against terrorism in the south.

The decision to invest in new capabilities or acquiring for instance new air defence systems, as Turkey has decided to do by signing an agreement with Russia on an S-400 air defence system, is a national decision. What matters for NATO is the interoperability, that it's integrated into NATO systems. There has been no request for integrating the S-400 into the integrated NATO air defence system. At the same time, I also know that Turkey is now in dialogue with European allies to purchase something called SAMP/T, a European system, in addition to the S-400. And of course that will be much easier to also integrate in the NATO air defence system.

We are an alliance of 29 nations and sometimes there are different views about different issues, but NATO has always been able to unite around the most important tasks of NATO, and that is that we stand together and that we protect each other because we are stronger together than divided.

NATSUKI NAKAGAWA (Kyodo News): I'm a reporter from Kyodo News, my name is Nakagawa. Please allow me to ask you a question in Japanese. [Speaking Japanese; interpretation not audible]

JENS STOLTENBERG: NATO is deeply concerned about the development of nuclear weapons and long range missiles by North Korea, and we strongly condemn the weapon programs. It's a clear violation of several U.N. Security Council resolutions, and it's not only posing a direct threat to countries in the region like Japan and South Korea but it's also a threat to international peace and security. And the fact that North Korea now is also developing longer range ballistic missiles, intercontinental ballistic missiles, means that these missiles will be able to hit cities both in North America and in Europe.

This just highlights that the reckless and irresponsible behaviour of North Korea is also a threat to countries outside this region. It is a global threat that requires a global response. We need maximum pressure on North Korea with political means, with diplomatic means, and with the economic sanctions. I welcome that the U.N. Security Council in September strengthened and augmented the economic sanctions. I think the important thing now is to make sure that the sanctions are fully implemented, making sure that North Korea has to pay a price if it continues with its irresponsible behaviour, but also see that there is real value if they change course and start to act in a responsible way.

NATO has responded to missile threats, to nuclear threats, for decades. The main way we have responded to missile threats, dating back to the Cold War from the Soviet Union, has been through our deterrence: the fact that we are a strong alliance, that we have capabilities, that we have a military posture, that we have unity and that we have resolve which enable us to respond to any attack, including attacks with ballistic missiles. And by having this strong military alliance, the capabilities and the resolve, we are sending a signal to all potential adversaries, including North Korea, that we are able to defend and we're able to respond if there is an attack.

The reason to have this deterrence, to have credible deterrence, is not to provoke a conflict; a conflict would be disastrous, but it is to prevent a conflict by sending this strong message of credible deterrence. That was the case back in the 50s, the 60s, the 70s, during the Cold War, and it's still the case also when it comes to the threats posed by North Korea.

Q: [Speaking Japanese; interpretation not audible]

JENS STOLTENBERG: President Trump has expressed clearly in many meetings with me but also with other leaders that he is strongly in favour of a strong transatlantic bond, he supports NATO, and he has stated that in meetings with me in Washington but also in meetings we had for instance in Brussels this spring. So I'm not in doubt that President Trump but also the United States is strongly committed to NATO.

The United States is committed to NATO not only in words but also in deeds. For the first time since the end of the Cold War the United States is now increasing its military presence in Europe again. During many years since the end of the Cold War they have reduced their military presence, but now they are deploying more troops, more forces, but also investing more in infrastructure and also deploying supplies, ammunition and so on for their troops. So the United States is increasing its military presence in Europe, together actually with Canada, so I think there is no stronger sign of U.S. commitment to NATO, to the transatlantic bond, than the fact that the United States is now investing more and sending more troops to Europe.

Trump has also stated clearly that he wants NATO to adapt especially in two areas. We need fairer burden sharing within the alliance.  The United States is paying too big a share of the total expenditures of NATO on defence, and he also has stated clearly that he would like to see NATO do more in the fight against terrorism. And I agree with him. We need fairer burden sharing in the alliance and NATO needs to do more in the fight against terrorism.

The good news is that NATO has started to do exactly that. After many years of decreasing defence expenditure across Europe and Canada, we have now seen since over the last years that defence spending has started to increase again. We made a decision at our summit in 2014 to stop the cuts, a gradual increase, and then move towards spending 2% of GDP on defence. The first year after we made that decision, 2015, was the first year we had some increase in defence spending. Then the increase increased in 2016, and the estimates for 2017 show an even sharper growth in defence spending across Europe and Canada.

So non-U.S. allies are now moving in the right direction. And we have to remember that some allies have spent more than 2% of GDP on defence for a long time, for instance the United Kingdom, Estonia, but we have also countries like for instance Poland, you have Greece, and you have this year Romania has declared that it reached the 2% guideline, and next year countries like Lithuania and Latvia have also clearly stated that they will reach the 2% guideline. So more countries are now reaching the guideline of spending 2% of GDP on defence, and even those who are not yet at 2% have started to increase, so the total defence spending is really moving in the right direction.

On the fight against terrorism, NATO has played a key role for many years, not least in our fight or our presence in Afghanistan, helping to stabilize Afghanistan, and the main reason why we are in Afghanistan is to fight terrorism. The reason why we went into Afghanistan was the terrorist attack on the United States and we are in Afghanistan to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for international terrorists. And I'm very grateful for the strong support we have received from Japan over many years, one billion from Japan in trust funds, financing our training, our advising of the Afghan National Army and Security Forces.

NATO is also stepping up in the fight against ISIL, Daesh:  we are a member of the coalition fighting ISIL, we see that the coalition is now making a real progress both in Syria and Iraq, but we strongly believe that we have to continue to train local forces to enable for instance the Iraqi government forces to stabilize the country, to stabilize cities like Mosul after it's liberated from ISIL, to make sure that ISIL or other terrorist groups are not able to return. So we still have a lot to do, but NATO has really stepped up both when it comes to defence spending and when it comes to doing more in the global fight against terrorism, and I welcome also the partnership with Japan in this.

Q (Jiji Press): Thank you very much. Could I ask in Japanese? Sorry. [Speaking Japanese; interpretation not audible]

JENS STOLTENBERG: NATO is taking hybrid warfare extremely serious because we have seen how hybrid warfare has been used to intimidate, to coerce nations, especially Ukraine, and we also see that hybrid warfare is increasing in intensity and scale and scope. Hybrid warfare covers actually many different kinds of measures and many different kinds of aggression, but what is characteristic for hybrid warfare is that it is a combination of covert and overt operations, a combination of everything from disinformation, propaganda, to soldiers without insignia or without uniforms, and also actually sometimes cyber or the use of conventional military force.

So it is this mixture of many things. Very often the aim is to be able to attack without in a way to show the countries that are under attack that they are attacked and that they are discovering that they are under attack when it's too late. And therefore we need to respond to hybrid warfare with many different measures at the same time, and that's exactly what we are doing in NATO.

We are also discussing hybrid warfare and response to hybrid warfare with many partners, but let me just mention some elements of how we are responding to hybrid threats in Europe. First of all, we need improved situational awareness. We have to be able to see early what is going on, meaning that we need better intelligence, better surveillance, and better reconnaissance capabilities. NATO is investing in all this now with a new division dedicated to intelligence, with for instance new drones which will be important for our situational awareness, and we are improving the way we are collecting and analysing information.

And of course one of the reasons why we are both increasing the readiness of our forces but also deploying forces to the eastern part of the alliance for the first time in the history of NATO - we are deploying combat ready forces to the eastern part of the alliance - is that then they can react immediately. The readiness is high and they can react immediately because the forces are already there and they are combat ready.

Thirdly, we need to counter disinformation, propaganda. We don’t believe that propaganda should be counted with propaganda, but we believe that when we see disinformation, propaganda, we need to provide facts, we need to help nations countering the misinformation, and therefore we are stepping up our capabilities when it comes to helping nations to counter disinformation. We believe that the truth will prevail; the truth will prevail over disinformation.

And add to that, that everything we do when it comes to cyber is also very much linked to responding to hybrid threats, because cyber will be an integrated part of any potential military conflict in the future.  Cyber can be used to undermine our national institutions, the trust in our democratic institutions, it can be used to meddle into political processes, it can be used to spread disinformation, and it can also be used to undermine our military capabilities.

So NATO is strengthening our cyber defence capabilities; we are working with nations to help them protect their networks, we are protecting our networks, and one of the areas where we're now looking into how we can work together with Japan is cyber defence. The expertise, the knowledge of Japan, and the expertise and the knowledge of NATO will become even better and stronger if we work together, sharing best practices, sharing technology, exercising together, and that's also a part of responding to hybrid threats. So hybrid threats are many different things, therefore we need a wide range of measures to respond to hybrid threats.

Q: Tim Kelly, from Reuters. So you just mentioned cyber as an area of cooperation with Japan, and when you met Prime Minister Abe earlier today you talked about that you had agreed to deeper cooperation. Could you kind of give us a bit more detail about how far that cooperation could go.  Would there be Japanese military personnel participating in say NATO drills or would NATO personnel come to Japan? How far can this cooperation go? What do you envision is kind of the end stage of that cooperation?

JENS STOLTENBERG: First, I think there's a great potential for strengthening the cooperation between NATO and Japan. Of course, it has to be based on that this is in the interest both of NATO and Japan, and we only cooperate when both parties are interested and willing to do so. So we will respect all sensitivities and all caveats that Japan may have.

Having said that, I felt that during the meeting today, and also yesterday with the Foreign Minister and the Defence Minister, and today in my meeting with Prime Minister Abe, it was a very strong support for stepping up the cooperation between NATO and Japan in many different areas. I mentioned cyber because Japan has the knowledge, the skills, NATO has a lot of knowledge and skills, and when you work together we can achieve more.

For instance, NATO has developed a malware platform, a platform for sharing information about cyberattacks immediately. That is extremely important because when there is … we have seen these big cyberattacks this year, one of the most important things we can do is to share information about the cyberattacks, the characteristics, to be able to develop a response. We have developed this platform for sharing information about cyberattacks, malware, we have done that with the European Union and of course with allies and with other partners, and we strongly believe that there's a potential for including Japan into such a platform for sharing malware and then also to exercise and to share technology, and Japan has also expressed interest in joining what we call the Centre of Cyber Excellence, or Centre of Excellence on Cyber Warfare, in Tallinn in Estonia. I welcome that strongly. So in the cyber domain there are many concrete measures or areas where we can step by step expand our cooperation.

In the maritime domain, we have actually already worked together because NATO and Japan have worked together off the Horn of Africa fighting piracy, and that has proven that we are able to work together. But this is about doing more of that, this is perhaps exercising together, this is about port calls, port visits, and we have done it before but I think there is a potential of doing more and also more advanced and complex exercises and operations together in the maritime domain.

I welcome that Prime Minister Abe, when he visited Brussels in July, said that Japan was interested in sending a Japanese liaison officer to NATO's maritime headquarters in the United Kingdom, and when we met now Japan announced that they are now going to send a maritime liaison officer to NATO's headquarters. That will be important because that will create a link between the Japanese Self-Defence Maritime Forces and NATO maritime forces. I also visited a maritime base in Japan earlier today, and of course Japan has extremely advanced capabilities, interoperable with NATO, and there is a great potential there.

I also welcome that Japan has already sent a liaison officer to the NATO military headquarters in Mons, SHAPE, in Brussels, sorry, in Mons in Belgium, and that can also be a link for working together on different military activities, exercises, and Prime Minister Abe also expressed that Japan is ready to continue to support NATO efforts in Afghanistan. That is also something we strongly welcome.

Let me also add that in the area of women, peace and security, Japan has been very supportive for a long time. The protection of women in military conflicts but also how to integrate women in our armed forces is high on our agenda; it is extremely important, and an area where Japan has been contributing for a long time.

So we had to in a way develop the partnership as we move on, but there is great potential. Let me mention also of course that Japan has a ballistic missile defence, NATO has ballistic missile defence. These systems are not linked. We have a European missile defence system and Japan has a system, but of course we have many of the same capabilities; it's called Aegis, and we are working closely with the United States, so the United States is key for the ballistic missile defence system in Europe, and many of the same capabilities are also available here in Japan. These systems are not linked, we are not discussing about linking them, but of course to share experience, to share best practices, and also to have our experts to meet and to share their analysis can be useful both for Japan and for NATO.

So there are many potentials, we are looking into them, and we also agreed, the last thing I'll say about this is that Prime Minister Abe and I agreed today that we will develop a new individual partnership program, a new program for our partnership activities, which will then frame the framework and the kind of long term plan for all the different activities we're going to conduct together in the coming years.

Q: [Speaking Japanese; interpretation not audible]

JENS STOLTENBERG: In an uncertain world with new threats and new security challenges there is even more need for NATO than before, and I'm absolutely convinced that NATO will play a very important role also in the coming years because we are faced with so many new threats and challenges, so our allies but also our partners need a strong NATO. And I'm also … I'm concerned about that we have seen a deteriorating security environment, but I'm impressed by the way NATO has responded. So the world has become more dangerous but NATO has become stronger in response to the new security challenges, and I'm actually impressed by the way NATO has been able to adapt, because it is because NATO is so vigilant and able to adapt that NATO has been able for nearly 70 years to be by far the strongest military alliance in history and in the world, and I believe we will continue to be that because we continue to prove that we are able to change.

For 40 years NATO did one thing, and that was to respond to the Soviet Union during the Cold War. We focused on deterrence in Europe, responding to the Soviet Union. Then the Soviet Union was dissolved, the Cold War ended, the Berlin Wall came down, and NATO adapted, and we are now much more engaged in global security threats, fighting terrorism, cyber, stabilizing our neighbourhood, and working with partners like Japan. That is something new, but it's something very much needed because we see much more global threats, as cyber, as terrorism, as proliferation of nuclear weapons, weapons of mass destruction, and global threats require global responses and NATO has adapted to that and we will continue to adapt.

Georgia and Ukraine are partners of NATO; we welcome the close partnership with them, and we are providing both strong political support and strong practical support to Georgia and Ukraine, and we of course support fully their sovereignty and their territorial integrity.

When it comes to China and Russia, of course two different nations, but two big powers. China is a growing power with a growing military strength and capabilities. Russia is a neighbour of NATO and we have seen a Russia which is also investing heavily in military capabilities and a Russia which has been willing to use military force against neighbours, as we have seen in Ukraine. But NATO doesn’t believe in isolating countries like Russia or China; what we believe in is what we have developed in our relationship with Russia, but it's also relevant with how we deal with other countries, and that is defence and dialogue. We strongly believe that as long as we are strong, as long as we are united, as long as we are firm and predictable, we can also engage in dialogue, because we have to speak to our neighbours, we have to try to reduce tensions, and we have to try to avoid a new Cold War and a new arms race. So we believe that a strong NATO can also engage in political dialogue with big powers to try to solve issues in a peaceful and negotiated way.

We already had a conversation with Russia on the large scale exercise Zapad. We had a meeting last week in what we call the NATO-Russia Council, and one of the main topics we addressed there in our meetings with Russia was the Zapad exercise, which is a big military exercise in the western part of Russia. What NATO allies expressed in the meeting with Russia was that all allies …sorry, all nations have the right to exercise their forces, and that's also the case for Russia.

But when military forces are exercised it has to be done in a transparent, predictable way to minimise the risk of misunderstandings, of miscalculations, of incidents and accidents. That has always been the case, but it's even more so now because we have seen increased tensions, we have seen more military forces, more military activity along our borders with Russia, and we've also seen some incidents. We saw the downing of the Russian plane over Turkey in 2015, and we have seen some dangerous incidents in the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea, and we know that big military exercises have been used as a disguise for aggressive actions against neighbours. That was the case in Georgia in 2008 and that was the case in Ukraine when Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. That was also done under the disguise of a military exercise. So therefore it is important that when forces are exercised and that when Russia exercise their forces, and they have a right to do so, that they make sure that this is done in a transparent and predictable way.

The challenge is that Russia said before the exercise that it would include less than 13,000 troops, and 13,000 troops is the threshold for what we call mandatory observation according to something called the Vienna Document, which is an international agreement for how big exercises have to be before there is a required or a mandatory observation. What we have seen is that the exercise was much bigger than they told us; the scale and the scope and the geographic outreach of the exercise was much bigger.  So we called on Russia to be transparent, to comply with international commitments, because we need transparency, predictability and also mechanisms for risk reduction to prevent incidents, accidents, and if they happen, for instance downing of planes or whatever we have seen, that we make sure that they don’t spiral out of control and create a really dangerous situation. This is the case for Russian exercises but this is of course the case for exercises also in other parts of the world that we need transparency, predictability, and not risk that exercises is a disguise for aggressive actions.